People over Performance
After reading June 12 Sparkling Gems Volume 1 by Rick Renner I was reflecting on what kind of fruit I have been producing in my life. I teach often on John 15, the True Vine, the Vinedresser, the branches, and the fruit so this language overflows with rich metaphorical imagery in my mind. I was journaling, asking the Spirit, “What is the bad fruit in my life right now?”. Immediately gossip came to me. I began journaling how gossip is oftentimes sparked in my life. I realized it’s usually out of feeling offended, which is a topic I have been studying for weeks now. When I feel offended or wronged by another I feel justified to vent to one or more of the closer people in my life. I want someone to hear the wrong and how the other person annoyed or disrespected me. But truthfully, my motive is being fueled by pride, unforgiveness, bitterness, and a sense of victimhood. Truthfully that person is getting in the way of my task or has threatened my reputation in some way.
In my process of repenting and asking the Lord for help I was reminded of a trial I have been in the last 3 years. In the past I have realized I’ve gossiped in relation to this situation and have been intentional about ending that behavior. However, my heart still struggles in my personal reflection time with the Lord. Knowing that the heart is the source of what flows from my mouth and behaviors, I want whatever is not of the Lord to be transformed. I was then reminded of a word that was shared in my Bible study the night before.
The word was reduction. When it was shared the night before it was in the context of cooking. There’s a slow burn that causes the water to evaporate and leaves the rich and thick sauce full of flavor. “Yes!” I thought, a slow burn is the right description for what I’m experiencing. And I do have hope God is using that trial to bring forth goodness. I then looked up the definition of the word and was struck with excitement.
Reduction: the action or act of making a specific thing smaller or less in amount, degree, or size. Synonyms: depletion, cut, cutting, cutback, trimming, pruning, axing, chopping. The act of bringing back or restoring.
If you know John 15 this is spot on with the imagery used in that passage. I want the fruit of gossip, slander, and pride to be cut back from my life. I want good fruit to get the full nutrients and for restoration to be experienced!
Now here is where the Spirit suddenly connected something powerful for me. Like many can relate, performance and being effective is a MAJOR motive in my life. I have come a long way out of perfectionistic mentalities and lies of false responsibility. However, there is more work to be done. Recently the Lord spoke clearly to my heart, “are you ready to fail in the world?”. This question to me meant, “...are you willing to surrender your worldly reputation, your imposter-self (referencing Brennan Manning’s Abba’s Child), and your desire to be valued for your competence?” This was no light question. I love the Lord and want to be obedient to Him always, but this time I paused and questioned if I heard correctly. After prayer and reflection I do believe I heard accurately.
So this is where it all connected for me. When I pressed further and asked the Lord, “What are you bringing back- what are you making smaller in me, Lord?”. I sensed the answer was, “in your heart I’m bringing back your pride, your boldness and ambition to take over when another isn’t meeting your expectation. Your dominance to get the job done. The power-over side of you that seizes control; especially when it's done disrespectfully toward others and in a way that shames or makes another feel smaller.” Wow, He is the best coach and counselor.
Am I willing to fail in the world? Am I willing to not get the task done or completed in a way that doesn’t align with my expectations? Am I willing to surrender the job or outcome in order to love others well? Coming back to the commands in John 15, “love each other as I have loved you”. So here is my new heart-check to remember:
Love the person over completing the task.
As these words came I was flooded with memories of how I have chosen to keep my reputation of being a hard worker over treating others with the love of Christ. For example, in college as a basketball player I knew I was the “brick-house” or “muscle” on the court. Making contact and using my body athletically wasn’t the issue, but what is disturbing to look back on was how I would use my mass to slam into opponent players who were in my way when we transitioned from one basket to another. As a post/center player when the ball changed possessions it was my primary goal to get to the basket first to start the offensive plays or defend the basket. In other words, I would push the bounds of physicality, not caring about the other player as a human being, in order to get the job done.
While I have come a long way from that kind of behavior, oftentimes I still would rather get my work done and maintain my hard working reputation than focus on others. I deeply struggle with others who seem like they are interfering with my work or who are taking away from the task instead of adding. I have too many times seen others as pons or objects to complete a task instead of how Christ wants me to see them. I know now that even if completing that goal would benefit everyone involved, it’s not worth running people over or making them feel small.
Coming back to that “slow-burn” situation in my life. I am beginning to see that I have been loving the vision and what I believe to be the ideal situation more than loving the people involved. The person is not representing an obstacle in my way to get over but they are in front of me as an object of Christ’s love through me.
May we all love the person in front of us over the completion of the task/vision. May the bad fruit of gossip masked with “just venting” be reduced in order for the fruit of love to grow more abundantly in our lives. May we be filled with discernment on when and how to complete a task when others aren’t moving in the same direction. May we trust the slow-burn and the process of pruning.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;..” 1 Corin. 13:4-5